February 2014 seemed like a good time to whizz off to Cambodia and ultimately Angkor Wat.
Flying via Bangkok, a short flight onwards to Siem Reap, the town next to the Angkor Wat complex. Siem Reap is situated north of the Tonle Sap lake, a huge body of water with the southern river leading to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city.
A fairly flat farming area, roads busy with motorbikes and tuk-tuks but not so many cars. Cambodia is still recovering from its past of war and corruption, still rife and the poverty left as Pol Pot’s legacy from his Khmer Rouge regime.
Staying in a town centre hotel, a quick check-in, then off out to explore Siem Reap. The town centre is geared up for the tourist influx that it’s proximity to Angkor Wat brings and there was the usual contrast of poverty and luxury.
Heading off, as usual to the local markets to get a feel for the people and atmosphere and the Siem Reap market centre was no disappointment. Packed tightly together, narrow aisles full of stalls selling everything from tourist wares, handbags, shoes, vegetables, meat, fish, sweets, it was bustling.
The usual Asian market scenario, but I love it, poking around stalls, checking out what type of vegetables are sold, scanning the fish stalls, trying on the shoes.. great fun with the lovely Cambodians trying hard to make a sale, but so welcoming with it.
Plenty of restaurants, a night market with desirable Cambodian local crafts, the town buzzes. It moves with the flow, catering to the tourist market with massage, fish pedicures, bars, street stalls and everything else that goes with entrepreneurship.
My first fish pedicure, perched up above the street, feet being gently nibbled, chatting with passers-by, drink in hand, great fun and so much life to look at, out there in the street.
But memories of the horror of Pol Pot’s regime are there to be seen, a reminder of Cambodia’s dark and painful past.
Angkor Wat will be my next post. It was a remarkable experience and deserves a post of its own.
Cambodia Travel information: Check out this link for passports that can obtain visas online and how to apply. Apply online for a visa, print out and take with you.
Bangkok to Siem Reap: 1 hr flight time.
Taxis and Tuk-tuks: Available at the airport.Taxis are probably more expensive, but it’s not much in the greater scheme of things and a Tuk-tuk is a fairly relaxed drive into town, we negotiated two sight-seeing days with our driver and he was an utter gem.
Hotel: Central Siem Reap, clean comfortable, pool. Good breakfast and loads of variety, I confess I have forgotten the name but one is spoilt for choice…
Food: Well just go for it, everything you want from pizza to local. Go local, it’s really good.
Be prepared: For intense humidity, poor living standards versus a spectacular Unesco World Heritage site. Women, take a fan, it helps. Men, I can’t really help apart from to suggest a man fan. Comfy shoes, a lot of ancient roadways around the Wat and it’s not rubberized! A HUGE GB memory card for all the pictures you are going to take. Small change for tips, helps appease the gap and received gratefully.
ENJOY: It’s a once in a lifetime experience…